If you want to become a meal planning pro then this post ‘meal planning for beginners’ is exactly what you need!
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of meal planning – it not only saves me time and money each week but it also reduces waste and means that I don’t have to make last-minute trips to the shop for extra ingredients
Step 1 – Make a Master List of all the recipes your family enjoy
This will help when you come to write your weekly meal plans so keep it handy.
The photo below is mine (although I’m in the process of updating it so watch this space) and as you can see, it’s pretty basic but it does have a list of the main ingredients that I need for each one. I’ve written more about creating a recipe bank here if you want to have a read.
Remember you’ll probably add to this list as you find more recipes that you enjoy so give yourself space or make a digital version. The reason I’m re-doing mine right now is that I wrote mine in the middle of a notebook that I’ve now finished so there’s no more space and my recipe bank is right in the middle of it.
Step 2 – Decide what day of the week you’re going to do your shopping.
It makes a difference, it really does! I used to shop on a Friday night and by dinnertime on Monday half my food was gone as the kids were at home all weekend and just made whatever they fancied with what they could see. By shopping on a Monday night, I know I’m going to have all of the food I need for my meal plan and by the weekend, there’s still plenty in to eat for the kids but they just need to put more effort in rather than just grabbing the first thing they see.
Step 3 – Before you go shopping, what’s going on over the next week.
Before you sit down and write your meal plan, just have a quick think about what you have going on the following week so you know what you’re planning for.
I work out when I’m working so if I have a late-night that I go for something simple for tea that’s not going to take me long when I get in or even better, that one of the kids can cook.
I also make sure I know who’s about when and if there’s anything that’s going to impact who’s about for tea. For example, I know when my teen has rugby practice he’ll only want something super light before he goes and will be starving when he gets in as he’ll have been running about a muddy field for a couple of hours.
Step 4 – Have a quick look at what you have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.
To save as much money as possible, you want to be planning your meals as much as possible around what you already have in so I always have a quick look at what I have in to help me choose the meals. You can be as thorough as want in this step and either just have a quick look in your fridge, freezer and food cupboards to give yourself a rough idea or you can literally note down everything you have in and do it that way.
At the very least, I’d recommend doing a full inventory at least once a month.
Step 5 – Write your meal plan
Choose the meals you’re going to eat over the course of the week and either assign each one a day as I do or just write a list of the seven meals and you can assign them to a day as you go along.
To make life easier for future you, always try and include at least one meal that you can batch cook (ie) cook double and freeze a portion. So you could make a double portion of bolognese and freeze one batch to cook up another week – I love making a couple of lasagnas with a batch of bolognese and freezing one so when I need an easy night, I can just cook up the frozen lasagne and add some garlic bread and a salad if I’m feeling fancy.
(I just write down our evening meals but you can absolutely do breakfast and lunches too if you want)
Step 6 – Write out your shopping list
Write a list of everything you need to buy when you go shopping and STICK TO IT. 😂
Step 7 – Be prepared to make last-minute changes
Unless you see a bargain when you’re out shopping in which case do a quick mental reshuffle of your meal plan and swap a meal out to replace it with whatever your bargain is and what you need to make it into a meal. The last time I did this was when I was at the shop at the perfect time and got two packs of king prawns reduced to 71p a pack so in my head I replaced the hunters chicken I was planning on with a version of Instant Pot chicken and rice meaning I could leave the BBQ sauce and bacon that I was planning to buy and just needed to buy a pack of chorizo sausage and some green peppers.
Step 8 – Keep your meal plan handy.
It helps me massively to have our meal plan on display so everyone knows what we’re having and when (and also who’s turn it is to cook).
This one is made with a £3 magnetic whiteboard from Tesco – I used a Sharpie to draw the lines on using one of the kids’ school rulers. This one almost identical to the one I bought:
You can also print out one of my free meal plan templates to use too!
Step 8 – Build up a core group of ‘storecupboard’ ingredients
There are certain things you’re going to use over and over again so it makes sense to make sure you always have them in. I’ll probably write a separate post on this one but the kinds of things that I tend to keep in are frozen chopped onion, frozen rice, frozen mixed veg, garlic, chopped chilli, homemade tomato sauce and various herbs and spices. I also have stacks of pasta, various different kinds of rice and cous cous.
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If you want to find out more about me then the best place to that is over on my other blog, The Diary of a Frugal Family.
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